Risk of Sensory Deficits Drops with Gestational Age

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Compared to full-term children, there is an increased incidence of hearing loss and visual impairment among moderately- and late-preterm infants, according to a study published online July 17 in Pediatrics.

Mikko Hirvonen, M.D., from the Central Finland Health Care District in Jyväskylä, and colleagues compared the incidences of sensory impairments among very-preterm (VP; <32 + 0/7 weeks), moderately-preterm (MP; 32 + 0/7 to 33 + 6/7 weeks), late-preterm (LP; 34 + 0/7 to 36 + 6/7 weeks), and term infants (≥37 weeks) using data from a national registry (1,018,256 infants).

The researchers found that the incidences of sensory impairments decreased with advancing gestational age at birth (P < 0.001). Intracranial hemorrhage and convulsions were associated with increased risks of hearing loss and visual impairment. There was an increased risk of hearing loss with VP (odds ratio [OR], 2.34) and LP (OR, 1.26) births, as well as an increased risk of visual impairment with VP (OR, 1.94), MP (OR, 1.42), and LP (OR, 1.31) births.

"MP and LP groups constitute the majority of all prematurely born children, and impairments among these groups constitute a major burden to society and the health care system," the authors write.